The best CEOs make talent management a priority – I believe this wholeheartedly. When I say “a priority” I mean they make it one of their top three agenda items in every staff meeting and they give it adequate time for review and discussion.
Great CEOs and their staffs are continually ensuring that they have the right people in the right roles – roles that are aligned with their strengths – and that they are providing opportunities for growth to high potential people in the organization.
What does this mean for you as an introvert?
About midway through my career at Baxter I had the privilege of working at the Baxter Leadership Institute – a self-contained training and development arm of Baxter Healthcare – as an executive trainer. One of the training programs we offered to executives focused on executive leadership styles, and involved having each executive in the class take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.
I remember very vividly that those who were more likely to become executives and CEOs were those who were natural extraverts rather than introverts. Said another way, almost every executive taking the course was an extravert. I knew that as an introvert I’d have to “step beyond my comfort zone” throughout my career in order to be seen as someone who would excel in leadership positions.
So I did.
I focused on three areas that took me outside my comfort zone as an introvert that I believe were instrumental to me being promoted 8 times in the 12 years I was at Baxter Healthcare, taking on increased financial and relational responsibility with each advancement. I’ll share one area of focus (one step) each day for the next three days… I hope you’ll find my own experiences and insights valuable!
TODAY – STEP ONE: YOU ABSOLUTELY NEED TO BE VISIBLE IN YOUR ORGANIZATION!
This does not come easily for introverts. Why? As Wikipedia states, “Extraverts recharge and get their energy from spending time with people, while introverts recharge and get their energy from spending time alone.”
This is where a concerted effort to network and “extend yourself” comes in. Let me be very clear – being an introvert is not at all the same thing as being shy. Many introverts are not shy at all, and I would count myself among them. Rather, whereas extraverts tend to become energized by being around others, we have to work harder to be comfortable in settings where we are interacting with more than just one or two other people.
But, to be seen as a leader in the organization you first must be seen. Executives must know who you are – you need to be on their “radar screen” as they consider how best to deploy talent in their organization.
SO…HOW TO BECOME HIGHLY VISIBLE WITHIN YOUR ORGANIZATION IN A WAY THAT IS COMFORTABLE TO INTROVERTS:
- Have a conversation with your boss about how you’d like to do some networking within your organization – and how it will help you be more effective in your role.
- Make a list of people who are a level to two above you that you do not get a lot of interaction with and who are considered respected leaders that you would like to meet.
- Consider asking your boss to make the introductions for you. If s/he says yes then they are invested in your success.
- Email each of these leaders separately and ask if they’d be willing to “grab a quick cup of coffee with you.” Try something along the lines of, “I am intrigued by what you’re doing in Project X and would love to see if I may be of help to you in some way…” Or let them know you have an idea you’d like to run by them, or that you’d like their advice on something…whatever is most comfortable for you and is a genuine reflection of you and your style. Most of the people on your list will gladly accept if you ask for just a “quick cup” of their time, and it will give you the opportunity to get to know this person one-on-one, which is how you’re much more comfortable, right?!
- Always end the coffee/meeting with, “how can I be of help to you?” Most people are honored to be asked and it will stand out in their minds. They may even ask how they can be of help to you – have an answer for this ready just in case! Even if it’s just an introduction to someone else in the organization you’d like to meet or some advice on one of your key projects, be ready to respond if you are asked…
- Thank them for their time! Send a hand-written thank you note – again you’ll stand out and the note will be appreciated. It may even stay on their desk for a while –keeping you top of mind.
- As much as the larger, company networking events are more draining for introverts – ALWAYS GO. Make a plan of who you definitely want to talk with and what you might want to say to them (thank them for something, comment on something that inspired you, an idea you have, a book you read that they might like, whatever it might be). Don’t leave the event until you have completed your plan. I can virtually guarantee that if you complete your event networking plan you’ll leave the event feeling better about it than you might have ever imagined before and not nearly as drained.
- Use these larger opportunities to reinforce the relationships that began over coffee and as opportunities to extend them further. You may even discover that some of the leaders you had coffee with will use these larger events as an opportunity to introduce you to others in their own network – providing another chance for you to make a good impression and further your reach on the “radar screen.”
- Use “volunteer” opportunities within and outside of the company for more visibility. I volunteered on a “Reward & Recognition” team within my business division that not only provided the opportunity for me to work with some people I never would have met otherwise, but provided additional visibility during quarterly “all employee” meetings when our team gave out the awards for teamwork and contributions over the past quarter. I also used my role as the Sponsorship Chairperson for my local American Cancer Society Relay for Life event as an opportunity to email our CEO and ask (given Baxter is a health care organization) for sponsorship dollars. I even extended him an invitation to attend the event. I expected an email back from his Executive Assistant and got one back directly from our CEO instead – trying to get it on his calendar and authorizing the sponsorship. Use your best judgment in regard to something like this in your company.
Again, great CEOs make talent management a priority in their companies, and this means leaders are constantly evaluating team members a few “layers down” for advancement opportunities.
The more visibility you have to organizational leaders the more likely they are to consider you for roles of increasing responsibility – and the more likely you are to get promoted. Find the ways most comfortable for you, as an introvert, to gain this visibility!
Are these suggestions helpful? How will you use them, if at all? What other ideas for visibility can you suggest? Please share your thoughts in the comments…I learn so much from my readers!
TOMORROW: STEP TWO of The Introvert’s Guide to Getting Promoted…This post was initially inspired by my friend Mack Collier’s “The Introvert’s Guide to Speaking” post, which in turn inspired my post titled, “You’re Just Not That Into Me: The Introvert’s Guide to Attending a Conference.”
UPDATE: My new eBook, “The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership” is NOW AVAILABLE! You may Download it at www.TheIntrovertsGuide.net for only $7.99 or BUY IT at Amazon for Kindle!
This 60+ page eBook is for introverts who want to use their introversion to their advantage in business and leadership, and for extroverts who lead introverts and wish to be more effective leaders.
(I’d also be honored if you’d consider subscribing here!)
…Photo is One Step by s-a-m.